Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Miranda Warnings": How 'bout them Rays!

Welcome to Week #7 of "Miranda Warnings", your weekly guide to what's happening in the world of Major League Baseball, from a fantasy baseball perspective. Every Wednesday morning, throughout baseball's regular season, "Miranda Warnings" will appear on I'm your host Michael Miranda.

American League East: The Tampa Bay Rays are for real! At press time, the Rays were in 1st place in the AL East! For years they've had enough offense to win, but haven't had enough pitching (starting and/or relief). Now, their pitching is the envy of all baseball teams as they have five, count 'em five, solid starting pitchers: Scott Kazmir, James Shields (pictured), Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine. The bullpen is anchored by veteran closer Troy Percival, who is not only a presence on the mound, but also in the clubhouse. All these pitchers bring value to a fantasy baseball team, especially Kazmir and Shields. If the Rays pitching continues to progress, dare I say they could make the playoffs!... After giving up three runs and ten hits in seven innings, striking out three and walking none, in a 6-3 defeat of Boston, Baltimore right-hander Daniel Cabrera is in cruise-control. Cabrera has thrown an unheard of seven consecutive quality starts (6 or more IP, 3 ER or less) and is now 4-1 with a 3.58 ERA. I'm still not sold on him. He's been a fantasy disappointment for years and remember that it was only four starts ago that he walked seven!... Yankee 3B Alex Rodriguez (quad) will miss the Yankees-Mets "subway series". A Monday MRI revealed that A-Rod still isn't fully healed. He's targeting a Tuesday return versus Baltimore... Toronto's playoff chances suffered a huge blow this past weekend when OF Vernon Wells broke his left wrist making a diving catch versus Cleveland. Wells was just getting hot at the time he was injured, as he was riding an eight-game hitting streak. Wells isn't expected back before July. Ouch!... Speaking of injuries, Boston P Clay Buchholz landed on the disabled list with, of all things, a broken fingernail on his right middle finger. The Red Sox will probably call up top prospect P Justin Masterson to pitch a game or two while Buchholz heals. If your fantasy team needs pitching help and Masterson gets promoted, he's worth a look.

American League Central: If you haven't noticed, White Sox OF Carlos Quentin leads the AL with 10 HR's, is 2nd in the AL with 34 RBI's (Texas OF Josh Hamilton is 1st with 44) and leads the AL with a .988 OPS! Wow! This guy went undrafted in most fantasy leagues! Again, wow! Speaking of undrafted, White Sox P Jose Contreras went undrafted in most leagues. He's currently at 4-3 with a 3.35 ERA!... Pre-season AL pennant-favorite Detroit continues to look for answers. The Tigers have no bite as they sputter along at 16-24. They still find themselves in last-place in the AL Central and are in the midst of a three-game losing streak. Things are going so bad for the Tigers that even solid pitching performances are being wasted. After tossing six strong innings in a 2-0 loss to Kansas City, ace P Justin Verlander stands at 1-7, with a 6.05 ERA! P Dontrelle Willis (knee) is rehabbing and is expected back next week. If you have Tiger hitters on your fantasy squad, I recommend keeping the faith because you gotta figure that Detroit's potent offense will eventually wake up... Cleveland P Cliff Lee is pitching out of his mind! If you have any appreciation for stats, you have to bow to Lee because his numbers are off-the-charts ridiculous. Are you sitting? Lee is 6-0 with a 0.67 ERA! In 53 2/3 innings, he's allowed an unreal 32 hits, a measly 4 ER and, get this, 4 BB's versus 44 K's! That, my friends, is called, in one word, dominance!... Kansas City P Zack Greinke is right up there with Lee and is a real sweet feel-good story. Greinke was out of baseball for most of 2006 as he dealt with personal problems. He returned in 2007 and worked primarily as a reliever, before making several starts late in the season. In 2008, he's become the anchor of KC's starting rotation. Greinke is downright filthy, sporting a 4-1 record, and a 1.93 ERA... Those who thought that Minnesota got swindled when they traded P Johan Santana to the Mets for four prospects (OF prospect Carlos Gomez, plus pitching prospects Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra) are eating their words. Last week, Gomez hit for the cycle versus Chicago. Gomez is hitting a respectable .275, with 16 SB's. He is an elite talent, who projects to someday be a Carl Crawford-type player, with more speed than Crawford. Think 70-80 SB's in Gomez' prime!

American League West: Oakland P Greg Smith continues to surprise (2-2, 3.00 ERA). He joined the starting rotation in place of injured P Rich Harden and has been so impressive that he remains in the rotation, though Harden has returned. If your fantasy squad needs pitching help and Smith is available (unlikely), give him a look... Last week, I discussed the Rangers Ron Washington and the Mets Willie Randolph as sooner, rather than later, managing casualties in 2008. Add Seattle's John McLaren to this list. Seattle had big expectations heading into 2008, especially after acquiring P Erik Bedard from Baltimore, to strengthen the starting rotation. The Mariners offense is weak and their defense is even weaker. Seattle is 16-26, the AL's worst record, and the wheels appear to be coming off as the M's already find themselves eight games behind division leader Los Angeles. Hoping to infuse some life into the team, the M's recently promoted C Jeff Clement and OF Wladimir Balentien from Triple-A. Balentien already has 4 HR's. Both players have good upside and will see regular AB's... LA Angels 2B Howie Kendrick (hamstring) continues to be plagued by the injury-bug. He recently tweaked his hamstring while rehabbing and is out indefinitely. Kendrick has been on the DL three times in the last two seasons... According to, there's no closer controversy in Texas. Although P Eddie Guardado recorded the save Tuesday night versus the Seattle Mariners, Manager Ron Washington insists that CJ Wilson remains the closer. Considering Wilson's ERA is 5.40, this is a situation that bears watching.

National League East: The Mets look lifeless, except when P Johan Santana is on the mound (no surprise!). They've lost two out of three at home to the doormat Nats, heading into Thursday's series finale. This team needs a jolt, a jolt that Manager Willie Randolph can't provide. What will it take for Mets brass to realize that Willie is not the man for this job?... Marlins 2B Dan Uggla has a .299 average (33 points higher than his career BA) and is ripping the cover off the ball with five straight multi-hit games... Philadelphia SS Jimmy Rollins (ankle) went 2-for-5 in Wednesday's loss to Atlanta. A nice night for a guy who is a bit rusty from three weeks on the DL. Of greater importance to fantasy baseball GM's is the SB Rollins recorded in the game. If Rollins is running, then Rollins is healthy!... Here are some ridiculous numbers for you stat fans: a Major League-leading .418 BA, 11 HR's, 31 RBI's, and a .683 SLG %. These numbers belong to Atlanta 3B Chipper Jones... Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman seems to be coming around. He smacked his 6th and 7th HR's in back-to-back games versus the Mets and he's hit safely in four straight games.

National League Central:
Is anyone in the Reds front office conscious? Top OF prospect Jay Bruce is obliterating the baseball at Triple-A Louisville, to the tune of a .366 BA, 8 HR's, 33 RBI's and 7 SB's. Meanwhile, Reds OF Corey Patterson and his .282 OBP continue to patrol the Reds outfield! Yes, that's correct, Patterson's OBP is .282! LOL! Please, someone, get Bruce where he belongs, in a Reds uniform! Please!... Astros P Jose Valverde recorded his 10th save Wednesday versus the Giants. Valverde has really come on strong after some early-season struggles... OF Jim Edmonds is a Chicago Cub. Edmonds (recently waived by the Padres) addition comes at the expense of OF Felix Pie. What a joke! For years, we've been hearing about the five-tool Pie. The Cubs have sufficient talent to allow Pie to learn on-the-fly, at the major league level. Yet, the Cubs have never given Pie an extended look. The Cubs should let Pie play, for an extended period of time, and see what he can do!... I'm convinced Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols is not human. Doctors have confirmed that Pujols needs Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Don't tell that to Pujols who has 8 HR's, 27 RBIs and a .355 BA!... Pirate C Ryan Doumit's solid season has been interrupted by a fractured left thumb. He'll miss 4-6 weeks... Two days after being removed from the closer role, Milwaukee P Eric Gagne reappeared as the Brewers closer on Tuesday against the Dodgers. Although he saved his 10th game, Gagne is unreliable. It's only a matter of time before he implodes again.

National League West: Dodger 3B Blake DeWitt (filling-in for the injured Nomar Garciaparra) hit his third homer of the season on Wednesday against the Brewers. He's clearly playing above his head, but he has earned playing time, even after Garciaparra returns... Heading into 2008, most "experts" (me included) felt that P Tony Pena was better suited for Arizona's closer role, but P Brandon Lyon has proven everyone wrong, in a very big way. Lyon has 11 saves, with a 2.00 ERA... With Jim Edmonds gone, the Padres may turn to prized OF prospect Chase Headley. San Diego desperately needs to get their offense going, so they may look for help in-house, before looking for help outside the organization. Headley is a power-hitter, with lots of upside. Fantasy league GM's should consider giving Headley a look, if the Padres promote him... Giants closer Brian Wilson, surprisingly, recorded his 12th save this week. Surprising because the Giants are not a good baseball team and, as a result, weren't expected to provide many save opportunities for their bullpen... Rockies C Chris Iannetta has been stealing starts from regular C Yorvit Torrealba. Iannetta has a .306 BA, in limited action. Meanwhile, Yorvit Torrealba is only batting .228.

See you next week!

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